The Jason Lee McKinney Band has quite a success story. During the band’s lifespan, they’ve won several industry awards and worldwide recognition, including a Josie Music Award for Male R&B Vocalist of the Year in 2019, R&B/Soul Entertainer of the year in 2021, and an Independent Country Music Association award for Artist of the Year in 2014.
The soul-infused folk and blues band, comprised of songwriter and lead vocalist Jason Lee McKinney, keyboardist and background vocalist Barry Strauser, bassist Billy Wright and lead guitarist Sebastian Falvo, has kept themselves busy. In 2020, they released Pieces, and in 2021, they dropped a cover album, Intentions and Interpretations. The band is dropping new music for the third year in a row with their 11th studio release, One Last Thing.
I connected with Jason to talk about the band’s new studio album: its theme and its new single, “Sing On” and more.
You recently released your 11th studio album, which is quite an accomplishment. How has recording changed for you since you first started recording?
For us, not much. We're pretty committed to being five guys in a room playing together. We do overdubs for sure and utilize technology for that as far as recording at home and sharing files back and forth. But for the main recording, we’re geeks for vintage studios.
We’ve recorded at Memphis-based Ardent Studios where rock legends ZZ Top and Stevie Ray Vaughn did some of their albums. We’ve also recorded at the Tennessee-based Royal Studios where rock legends Al Green and Rod Stewart did albums. We have also recorded at Zebra Ranch. As you can see, we’re old school in our approach to recording.
Tell us about “Sing On,” the first single from the new album.
I’m heavily influenced by the ‘70s musically. “Sing On” has a classic rock vibe but with a gospel choir. The subject matter centers on the problem of evil and suffering and quotes French theologian Simone Weil and apologist Marilyn McCord Adams. It’s a song of perseverance and hope—even during suffering that we can't make sense of.
Hope is a big theme on the new album. What else do you want your listeners to come away with as they listen?
Well, hope, but not the hope that is just a wish. The hope we want people to walk away with is more severe than just a wish. The hope we hope people take away is connected to ultimate reality, a hope that is not Pollyanna and turns a blind eye to pain, doubt, and existential crisis but rather a hope that faces them. A hope that is only found in connection with metaphysical reality, a hope that is only found in faith in Jesus.
If there would be anything beyond that it would just be to widen the preconceived notion of what music with a gospel message can sound like. We are, for sure, rawer, and less polished than what is typical for music with a gospel message. But if we serve the creator of creativity there should be a wide berth for what is Jesus music.
Music runs in the family. I understand your son is in the Tooth & Nail alternative band, Idle Threat. Have you two been able to explore music together even by being in totally different genres?
My oldest son, Zeke, is the bassist and singer for the band. I am so proud of him. The song “Simon” from their latest album, Blurred Visions, I think, is one of the best songs ever written—even if it weren't written by my son.
Zeke's twin brother, Zion, is one of the worship pastors at LifePoint Church in Smyrna, Tennessee. And my daughter, Zakyra, and daughter-in-law, Juliana, provide much of the background vocals for our album. They kill the end of the song, “When I'm Gone.” They trade licks and they, for sure, bring the soul. Even the youngest McKinney, eight-year-old Zekaiah, is a musician. He's a killer drummer who’s already playing Led Zeppelin as well as Earth, Wind, and Fire covers.
What's next for the Jason Lee McKinney Band?
We’re open but not planning. I have a philosophy and theology book called Deconstructing A Disciples Doubtcoming out in the next month. Our new album, One Last Thing, is our third album in the last 12 months. We released a covers album and a Christmas album in 2021 so we are just planning to play shows and reach as many people as we can.
How can we be praying for you?
Honestly, please pray that this album and my book would be used by God to help people. That we could be used to help answers questions, solidify faith, and provide some joy for as many people as God would be able to use us for. That it would never become about our egos but only remain about God and others.
Kevin McNeese started NRT in 2002 and has worked in the industry since 1999 in one form or another. He has been a fan of Christian music since 1991.
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